What to Know if You’re Considering Trying a Menstrual Cup
This no-waste alternative to pads and tampons comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. We tried Canadian brand Aisle's cup to see how it stacks up.
Many things have seemed like good ideas over the course of this strange pandemic year—buying stuff from Instagram ads, giving myself boredom bangs—so why not experiment with menstrual cups again? Since my first, brief brush with the cup back in the ’90s, they’ve expanded into all manner of sizes, shapes and silicone firmnesses, while I’ve thrown away quite a few plastic tampon applicators. Here’s what I learned about making the switch.
How to choose one
Every vagina is different, and you’ll need to figure out how long yours is—which means determining your cervix height, which means getting a finger up there. If your cervix is hard to reach, choose a longer option, like the DivaCup. (Bear in mind, though, that your cervix tends to move throughout your cycle and is often lower when you have your period.) If you can touch your cervix easily, a shorter cup like Saalt might work. Anything in between, go with an average-length cup; I tried a couple options and landed on Aisle.
Most come in two sizes, and in general, brands recommend the smaller one for people who haven’t given birth vaginally and the larger one for those who have. Plenty of cups also come with long, skinny stems meant to help with removal, which you can trim down. I invariably found the stem irritating so I would just cut it off entirely—a menstrual cup like Nixit, which is made in Canada, also dispenses with stems and strings. Once the cup is inside you, you shouldn’t really feel it.
(Related: 12 Period Mistakes You’re Making Every Month)
How to use one
YouTube abounds with folding techniques for inserting your menstrual cup—I fold it in half, like a slice of pizza, then squish it flat and fold it again. Some firmer cups have the structural integrity to immediately stay in place, but softer ones might require you to manually circle the rim, making sure it has opened up all the way around your cervix. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’re going to leak. Brands like Saalt and Nixit say their cups hold four times more liquid than a tampon can; aside from maybe on the first day of my period, I’ve easily worn a cup for 10 hours straight.
Cup removal is easier: Squeeze the bottom and pull. Then it just needs a thorough wash with warm water and mild soap. I do find that, after inverting the contents into the toilet, I want to be able to toss the cup directly into a nearby sink for cleanup. (I suppose cup-safe wipes are a possibility, but they seem to defeat the eco purpose.) I’m not sure I have the confidence to walk out with that cup and wash it in the shared sink of a public restroom or my office bathroom—hence my using one during a stay-at-home order. But I like the idea of ditching disposable products, so I might use the rest of the pandemic to work up the nerve.